was the son of Etienne II, Comte de Champagne and Brie, by Adele, supposed to have been a daughter of Richard II, Duke of Normandy, but by which of his wives or mistresses has not been ascertained. Now if such were the fact, Odo was the nephew of Duke Robert, the father of the Conqueror, and consequently first cousin of the latter and of his sister Adelaide or Adeliza, as far as blood was concerned. A marriage with her, therefore, would have been within the prohibited degrees so rigidly construed by the Church of Rome. William of Jumiegrave;ges, who styles him Count of Champagne, says he was nearly allied to King William by consanguinity, being grandson of Maud, daughter to Richard I, Duke of Normandy, wife of Odo, Earl of Blois and Chartres. This assertion is still more unfortunate, for Maud died childless, and Etienne, the father of our Odo, was the son of the Count of Blois' second wife Ermengarde, daughter of Robert I, Count of Auvergne, whom he married in 1020. I therefore deny the maternal descent of Odo from any near relation of William, Duke of Normandy, of whom he has been set down as a kinsman on the above authority only.
Dugdale, who appears to have been perfectly bewildered respecting him, has printed in his Monasticon two accounts, one from the Book of Meaux, an abbey in Holderness, and the other from the Register of Fountains Abbey, which is nearly verbatim, but in one or two instances more explicit.
The story as told in them is as follows: Odo having killed a magnate of his own country, took refuge in the dominions of his kinsman, William, Duke of Normandy, who gave him, through the intercession of the Archbishop of Rouen, his sister for wife, and subsequently bestowed upon him the island (according to the Book of Meaux), the county (according to the Register of Fountains), of Holderness. To the same Archbishop, not named, he is said to have been indebted for the grant of the county "comitatum" (the Register of Fountains reads "civitatem") of Albemarle on condition that he should attend the primate in any expedition with ten knights, and bear his standard before him.
The author of L'Art de Vérifier les Dates, and Père Anselm follow this account, but specify the Archbishop as Jean de Bayeux, who entertained a great friendship for Odo, and, with the consent of the Chapter, bestowed upon him the lands of Aumale on the above-named condition.
Now let us see what light the crucial test of dates flings upon these statements. Etienne, the father of Odo, could not have been born earlier than 1021, and would have been about sixteen or seventeen when he succeeded his father in 1037 as Comte de Champagne and Brie. Allowing that he married before he was of full age, say 1040, Odo must have been a mere child at his death in 1047/8, when he was immediately dispossessed of his inheritance by his uncle, Thibaut III, legally, it would appear, according to the law at that period, which, if the heir to the lordship was not of sufficient age to receive investiture by the ceremony of girding with the sword, authorized the nearest in blood of full age to claim the succession. Sharp practice, it may be said, but still the law, and one, it may be worth remarking, which would justify the rebellions against William in the first years of his rule had he even been legitimate.
At what time Odo took refuge in the Court of William, Duke of Normandy, is not stated, but he must have been a most precocious young swashbuckler if he killed "a magnate of his own country" before he entered his teens, and the loss of his estates would have been quite sufficient to have caused him at a later period to seek his fortune elsewhere, without having killed anyone fairly or foully.
At the time of the invasion of England Odo would have been about five-and-twenty, and what more likely than, having nothing to lose and everything to gain, he should eagerly have volunteered his services to William? But if we are to believe that Odo was indebted to Jean de Bayeux for the hand of his wife and the lands of Aumale, how could he be the "Sire d'Aubemare" who fought at Senlac in 1066, when the said Jean de Bayeux was not elevated to the primacy till after the death of Archbishop Maurilius in 1067?
The labours of Mr. Stapleton before alluded to, and those of the authors of Recherches sur le Domesday, enable us to solve the riddle in the most satisfactory manner. The old Norman Chroniclers state clearly enough that Odo de Champagne was the husband of the Conqueror's sister, though differing as to the fact of her being of the whole or the half blood, but not one of them had the kindness to inform us, if they knew, that the lady had been twice previously married, and had left issue by each husband.
The facts of the case, which have been elicited from the records of the Church of St. Martin d'Auchi (de Alceio), commonly called of Aumale, from its vicinity to the town of that name, are as follows: In or about the year 1000 a castle was built on the river Eu, now known as the Bresle, at the point where it divides the provinces of Normandy and Picardy, by a certain Guerinfroi (Guerinfrides), who also, in 1027, founded in its neighbourhood the Abbey of St. Martin d'Auchi. This Guerinfroi, who was Sire d'Aumale (not Count, as he has been incorrectly called), had an only daughter named Berta, who became the wife of Hugh II, Comte de Ponthieu, and mother by him of Enguerrand, or Ingleram, Sire d'Aumale in right of his mother, who married Adelaide, sister of the Conqueror, and was killed in an ambush at St. Aubin, near Arques, in 1053, leaving an only daughter, named Adelaide after her mother, and having settled on his wife the lands of Aumale in dower. The widow of Enguerrand, being still young, married secondly, and in the first year of her widowhood, Lambert, Count of Lens, in Artois, and brother of Eustace II, Count of Boulogne, and had by him a daughter, named Judith, whose hand was given by her uncle, William the Conqueror, to Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland. Count Lambert could scarcely have seen the birth of his child, for he was killed at Lille the following year, in a battle between Baldwin, Count of Flanders, and the Emperor Henry III. A widow for the second time, and still in the prime of life, she married, thirdly, Odo of Champagne, by whom she was the mother of Stephen, who, on the death of his elder sister Adelaide, became the first Comte d'Aumale, or Earl of Albemarle, the Seigneurie having been made a Comte by King William, but upon what occasion and at what time we have no evidence.
The name of Adeliza with the title of "Comitissa de Albemarle" occurs in Domesday, but not that of Odo, which first appears in connection with English transactions in 1088 (1st of William Rufus), when Count Odo and his son Stephen gave the manor and church of Hornsea, in the wapentake of Holderness, to the Abbey of St. Mary of York.
This latter fact also leads to the correction of Orderic Vital's assertion, that King William granted the earldom of Holderness to Odo of Champagne at the same time that he distributed cities and counties with great honours and domains among other lords who had assisted him in the Conquest, viz, in 1070. In the first place, Holderness was not an earldom; and in the second, as late as the completion of Domesday, A.D. 1086, the whole district so named was still part of the honour of Drogo de Brevere, a Fleming who had fought for William at Senlac, and received the greater part of the territory of Holderness amongst other portions of the spoil.
The gift of the lands (Dugdale says, of the city) of Aumale to Odo by the Archbishop of Rouen has also to be explained, for as Jean de Bayeux, if it were he, as stated by the author of L'Art de Vérifier les Dates, was not advanced to the primacy before 1067, such donation could not have been made previous to the invasion of England, at which period, and as late as 1086, the city and Castle of Aumale, with such lands as had not been given to the church of Auchi, were in possession of Adeliza, as Lady or Countess of Aumale, the wife, or if she were deceased, the stepdaughter of that very Odo.
It depends therefore entirely upon the date of Odo's marriage, whether it was he who, in 1066, was the "Sire d'Aubemare" (in right of his wife) alluded to by the rhyming chronicler as a combatant in the great battle. The evidence brought to light by the industry of Mr. Stapleton, and published by him in the 23rd vol. of the Archaeologia, supplemented by his letter to the late Sir Charles G. Young, Garter-King-of-Arms, and communicated by the latter to the Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. vi. p. 265, and also set forth by Mr. Stapleton in his notes on the Norman rolls of the Exchequer, has been epitomized by the authors of Recherches sur le Domesday, published in 1842, and it is singular, therefore, that the information of the triple marriage of the Countess of Ponthieu should have escaped the vigilance of Mr. Freeman, who has been led by Mr. Stapleton into the serious error which his later discoveries allowed him to correct, of making Odo the husband of the younger Adelaide, who at the time the record was written had succeeded, as daughter and sole heir of Count Enguerrand, to the "Suzeraineté" of Aumale.
Whether the expatriated Count of Champagne fleshed his maiden sword at Senlac or not, he appears to have made no mark either for good or for evil in the annals of this country till, misled by ambition, he was induced to join in the conspiracy the collapse of which has given him an unenviable reputation in them.
History is quite silent about him until after the death of the Conqueror, when we are told that Odo found himself embarrassed by his position as a feudatory of William Rufus in England and of Robert Court-heuse in Normandy. He owed allegiance to each; but how could he serve two masters who were at war with one another? He decided in favour of Rufus, and received an English garrison in his Castle of Aumale, which, in conjunction with his son Stephen, he enlarged and strengthened, at the expense of the royal treasury, on the invasion of Normandy by the Red King in 1090.
Five years afterwards, however, he joined in a conspiracy with Robert de Mowbray, William d'Eu, and other disaffected nobles, to depose Rufus and place his own son Stephen d'Aumale upon the throne.
The conspiracy failing in consequence of timely warning having been given to the King, Odo and his son were both arrested, the former thrown into a prison, from which he never emerged alive, and the latter condemned to have his eyes put out; but the piteous prayers of his wife and family, to say nothing of the payment of a considerable sum of money, obtained a remission of his sentence and restoration to liberty. How long Odo lingered in his dungeon is unknown. The exact date of his death is as uncertain as nearly every other part of his history, but it is presumed to have taken place in 1108.
Dugdale says, "the lordships whereof he was possessed, as appears by the Conqueror's Survey, were only these," and he then enumerates certain manors, which, in "the Conqueror's Survey," are distinctly set down as held by Adeliza, Countess of Albemarle, Odo's name, as I have previously stated, not occurring in a single instance throughout the work; but Holderness, he adds, "was not given him till after that Survey." There he is right, as we shall find in the following notice of Drogo de Brevere.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Michael Linton, who provided scanned text.